July 1, 2012

Slice of PIE: A Road Trip Into The Wilderness...

Yesterday, on the way to a wedding, I got lost.

As things turned out, I got lost in order to learn a couple of things. One had to do with my life as a breast cancer survivor’s husband (if you’re interested, read the post here: http://breastcancerreaper.blogspot.com/2012/06/road-signs.html).

The other had to do with “getting lost”.

That phrase has taken on a new meaning for me in this 21st Century. The new car (as opposed to my 1993 Chevy pickup truck), has a tiny, digital compass inside the rear-view mirror. I also had a paper map – but only of the state I was coming OUT OF rather than the stare I was going into. The thing is that I needed to intersect with a north-south highway, so (I reasoned) as long as I was going EAST, I would cross the highway.

Long story, shortened: I found my highway and reached my destination on time.

The longer version has a darker tale wound within, however, but for it to be significant, I need to back up about 20 years.

Shortly after we were married, I took a “correspondence course” with a division of the Long Ridge Writers Group, The Institute of Children’s Literature. Plunking down my $600 (which was a LOT of money in those early days of marriage!) I diligently completed the course and got the diploma. The novel I began and eventually finished was called ALIEN SUMMER and it detailed a Human farmer charged with raising the young of two alien races long at war.

The farmer is visited by his city boy nephew – who both finds out what’s going on and gets involved.

That novel went nowhere, but that was because I was inexperienced and (frankly) not a very good writer.

Lately, I’ve been toying with the idea of reviving the story. The current working title is LOVE IN A TIME OF ALIEN INVASION. Cool, huh? The basic plot will likely be the same, but a problem I had with the initial book continued to nag at me: “How could this possibly, really take place? There’s nowhere on Earth that is remote enough, close enough and safe enough at the same time for this to take place…”

Enter my trip into Wisconsin yesterday.

After missing my initial exit due to not reading the GOOGLE map closely enough and road construction, I exited some 30 miles north of where I was supposed to be. Thinking that it was just a matter of getting on the next east-west county road and heading east, I felt it was a good bet I’d intersect the road I wanted. It turns out I did – but not before seeing the following:
These country roads, while they had numbers and towns along them, rarely marked either until you were right on top of it. For example, one strange town with a name that shall remain unspoken, had an intersection. As near as I could tell, there were two houses, the volunteer fire department’s garage and a microwave relay tower. The asphalt road turned ninety degrees at the intersection and dove into the *ahem* State Forest. Thinking City Thoughts (perhaps more specifically Minneapolis thoughts), I drove straight onto the dirt road. I realized my error when I passed a long, cinderblock building on my left. It had a pull-through covering a single gasoline pump – but it would have been impossible to do so as a six-foot-tall, green wire Christmas tree blocked my way. A neon sign in the window of the building proclaimed at some “Lite” beer or other was available inside.

I left in a hurry, creeped out in ways I can’t even begin to describe.

That departure put me into the heart of the Forest and while I was indeed travelling east, I never passed another vehicle except the red, rusty pickup delivering mail to boxes along the road. Those boxes fronted properties that ranged from idyllic, gingerbread scrollworked B&B’s to mobile-home junkyards with children playing among the wrecks and ruin; modern dairy farms and shacks that would have been unremarkable in the Appalachian Mountains...

Could my alien combatants foist their newborns off to be raised by Human round-the-clock nannies in this area?

Whoa...I still had niggling doubts until I reached State Border Road.

This track of unmarked, uneven asphalt wound through a forest dense enough to qualify as temperate rainforest – and it was here that I didn’t cross paths with a single vehicle and the only life I noticed was of the bug variety and two turkeys crossing the road. Weeds and bushes grew to the very edge of this near-bike path (I’ve seen City bike paths wider than this road), and I was certain that if I plunged off the road into one of the marshes or ravines, no one would find my body without flying an infrared search and rescue mission...

So there you have it; one trip in which I was sort of lost equals grist for not one but TWO writing endeavors.

Oh, one final thought in passing, the people who live in these remote places; those whose farms or junkyards or homes are far from...what? Prying eyes? Governmental interference? Spy planes? My uncharitable thought as I meandered through that overgrown hinterland was that anyone who CHOOSES to live so far form everything – must have something to hide...

1 comment:

Paul said...

Yummy. I had some similar thoughts while driving through Michigan's UP on the way to WorldCon in Toronto several years ago. It was definitely a "back of the beyond" kind of feeling.